Blessed are the Meek
by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
Jesus delivers the Eight Beatitudes (Sermon on the Mount) -
by ROSSELLI, Cosimo -
from Cappella Sistina, Vatican
(Click Image to Enlarge)
The Beatitudes were given by no Prophet. They were given by God Himself Who became Man. There was no Human Person as
intermediary. It was God Himself Who gave us the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes were given to the Human Race which was about to
be Redeemed by the Passion and Death of Christ.
Our Blessed Lord began the Sermon on the Mountain with
Eight (8) short Maxims which summarize, or contain in 'Embryo', the Gospel Message
He came to Live and Teach. We refer to the Eight (8)
Beatitudes, the Message of which are in great contrast to the Wisdom of the World.
While Salvation is promised to those who live by them, the
Perfect Fulfillment of what they promise is not in this World, but in the next. Yet, if the measure that their
demands are met, they bring - even in this World - the Peace of Christ in the midst of
We are considering here the Second Beatitude,
"Blessed are the Meek, for they shall possess the Earth" (Matthew 5:4).
This requires an examination of the Virtue of Meekness, a
Virtue that is Little-Understood and Little-Esteemed in a World that Glorifies Power and Might, where
"Might is Right".
The Virtue of Meekness
Meekness is a Virtue which Moderates the
Passion of Anger according to the Dictates of Reason,
and Calms the Desire for Revenge
(Saint Thomas II II,157,1 & 2). It Restrains one from
wanting to Inflict Injury for Injury. It
enables one, relying on the Father's Will, to remain
Tranquil in the face of Wrongs done him/her
(ibid. I II,69,3). Saint Paul stressed the need of this
Virtue in his Letter to the Thessalonians: "See that
none of you repays Evil for Evil, but always seeks to do Good to one another and to all" (1Thessalonians 5:15).
Because of the Inclinations of our Fallen Nature
we are usually inclined to Avenge every Offense,
and to Resist every Adversary. Such is the Spirit of the World, but not the
Spirit of Christ. In time of Adversity,
Meekness inclines not to Revenge,
but to Gentleness and Patience, to
Pardon Personal Insults; and in
Trials allowed by God's Providence - to
Patience and Resignation. It helps us to
endure Difficulties that we encounter in those of different Tastes and Dispositions. It is
an Indispensable Aid to Charity in bearing Wrongs
Patiently, and avoiding Bitterness when
Misunderstood or Undervalued. It saves one from answering back quickly with Wounding Words,
that afterwards one wishes had never been said. In a word, it enables one to endure Affronts
and Injuries in a Spirit of Mildness dictated by
Reason enlightened by Faith. In all such situations it drives the
Thought and Inclination to Revenge out of one's Mind
and Heart, thereby removing a Key Obstacle to the
Work of the Holy Spirit in the Soul.
"Do nothing to Sadden the Holy Spirit with Whom you were Sealed against the Day of redemption. Get rid of
all Bitterness, all Passion and Anger, Harsh Words, Slander, and Malice of every kind" (Ephesians 4:30).
"Blessed are the Meek" said our Blessed Lord,
"for they shall possess the Earth". The Earth that is promised to the
Meek is not Temporal Territory or the Earth's Riches, but the
Riches of Christ's Inheritance. In the Old Testament,
God promised Land (the Promised Land) to the Israelites
as a Reward for their Obedience; but
that was only a Type or Figure of the Greater Promise made by
Christ in the New Law. As we have pointed out,
the Perfect Fulfillment of that Promise is in
Heaven; but Christ promised to provide even
in-this-life the Basic Temporal Necessities to those who "seek first the Kingdom of God and His
Justice" (Matthew 6:33).
Righteous-Anger of Christ in Cleansing of the Temple
by GIORDANO, Luca -
from Bob Jones University Collection, Greenville
When we say that Meekness moderates the Passion of
Anger according to the Dictates of Reason, it is because the
Passion of Anger, in itself, is neither Good
nor Evil. It can be either. There is such a thing as a
Just and Righteous Anger. We have examples of
this when Christ drove the Money Changers out of the Temple
(Matthew 21:12), and when He looked upon the Pharisees
with Anger because of their Hardness of
Heart as He cured the Man with the
Withered Hand on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5). Again, Moses
was filled with Righteous Anger when he broke
the Tablets of the Law as he came upon the Israelites
Worshiping the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:19).
Consequently, while Anger when aroused in Fallen
Nature is most often Blameworthy, we see that it can be
Praiseworthy and Just, when
Meekness directs it according to the Dictates of Justice and
Charity. We are speaking of Anger that tries
to Destroy Sin, without wishing to Destroy the Sinner.
"Be Angry and Sin not" (Ephesians 4:26; Psalm 4:5). Even in
Just Anger, however, one must be careful not
to Sin by Excess. Saint Bernard reminds us that there are
Two (2) Extremes one must avoid in this matter: "It is a Sin not to
be Angry when one should be Angry; but to be Angry more than is necessary is equally sinful". Father Walter Farrell,
O.P. speaks in similar language: "There are times when our failure to be Angry is a Weakness, when we
hold back the Punishment because our Love is not strong enough to be Just" (Comp. to Summa, p.457).
False Concepts of Meekness
It would be a Grave Misconception of Meekness to confuse it with
Timidity or Cowardice. The Modern World may look upon
Meekness as a Weakness, as one
Afraid to stand
up for his/her Rights, as one unwilling to fight-back in the face of Insult or
Offense. Yet, on the contrary, as Father Walter Farrell, O.P. explains,
"the Meek Man is a Conqueror; for he/she has subdued the Wildest Passion of Man, the Passion that strikes
most suddenly and most devastatingly. This is not the Task of the Timid Person, but rather of a Fearless Rider of a Wild Steed he/she has
In contrast to this, our Modern Movies at times hold up as Hero the Macho who in his/her Unbridled
Anger Inflicts untold
Damage and Destruction to seek
Revenge; and who deals with his Victims with unbelievable
Brutality. If such a one might display Physical Strength, it is a pitiful display of
Spiritual Weakness. For such a one is often a Slave of the Demands of the
Ego, and uses the Passion of Anger to his/her
own Selfish Ends.
Meekness, then, is rooted in Spiritual Strength,
for it requires Great Spiritual Strength to keep the Emotion of
Anger under control; and the very practice of that Virtue calls for Frequent
Acts of such Strength. Understood properly, the Meek
are those who are Truly Strong in the Christian
sense, Strong with the Strength that brings about
Conquests, the Fruits of which are Eternal. Yet, as
we saw in the case of a Righteous Anger, the
Meek Person will fight-back with Controlled Anger,
when his/her Rights or the Rights of others are Abused. However, since it is so easy to be
Mistaken in Judging the Just Motive of
Anger, being inclined as we are to Wishful Thinking when the
Ego is Hurt, and because Anger
easily gets out-of-control, one must be Vigilant lest a Sudden Movement of Anger would carry
one beyond the Limits of Justice and Charity.
In this regard, Father Jordan Aumann, O.P. warns: "In case of
Doubt, it is
better to Incline to the Side of Meekness than to the Danger of Excessive Rigor" (Spiritual Theology p. 301).
The Meekness of Christ
* Meekness &
When Our Blessed Lord calls our attention to His Own
Meekness, He singles-out another Virtue
which is its Immediate Foundation, and without which one will never control the Passion of
Anger. "Learn of Me", He said,
"for I am Meek and Humble of Heart" (Matthew 11:29). Neither of these
Two (2) Virtues are popular in our Secular
Society, but both are essential for the follower of Christ. Just as
Meekness calms the Passion of Anger, so
Humility restrains the inclination to Pride.
And as Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. points out, "it takes only a small
amount of Pride, of Self-Love, of Attachment to our way of seeing and doing things, to make us unable to stand opposition"
In our Blessed Lord, then, we see both the Expression of
Just Anger, and the Suppression of the
Passion of Anger when Falsely Accused and
Roughly Treated during the Passion. Both of these are the
Fruit of the Virtue of Meekness. He
Who is Lord and Master of all
Mankind and Creator of the entire Universe, remained
Meek and Humble of Heart when
being treated with Sheer Contempt by His own
Creatures. In this, Christ the Redeemer made
Reparation for our Pride, and Christ the
Teacher pointed out the way to the Father.
The Passion of Anger
We will better understand the Work of the Virtue of Meekness if we see a bit in detail
the Violent Passion it keeps in Control.
Anger is the Spontaneous Reaction to some Injury,
Restraint or Coercion, Insult,
etc. (Actual or Imaginary) that inclines one to respond in-kind. It is an Emotion implanted in Man
by Nature and intended to be Governed by the Dictates of Reason. Since
Anger is a Passion, the First
Impulse of it is Independent-of Reason or Will, and
therefore, as we have seen, is neither Good nor Evil.
It becomes Sinful insofar as it Influences or Interferes-with the Judgment of
Reason, or if it is out of proportion to the
Injury that provoked it, or when it seeks means of Revenge that are
Contrary to Reason. Anger is listed among the
Capital Sins, because it is the Mother of many Offense
against Charity and Justice. The more
Violent the Anger, the more
Passion becomes Man's master, rather than Reason enlightened by
One with Deep Faith in God knows that
everything that happens to us, no matter how Painful, is permitted by
God for our Sanctification. Yet, when
Anger flares-up, this thought vanishes, and one sees only the Person against whom the
Anger is directed, and against whom one is inclined to react. "Man is master of his
actions" says Saint Thomas, "through the Judgment of Reason"
(ibid. 158, 2, ad 3), and Anger
interferes with that Judgment, and can completely wipe-it-out. The stronger the Passion,
the more-blindly one Acts.
Even when the degree of Anger is not extreme, the Calmness of Judgment is Lost, and one
no longer sees God's Will, the Image of God in
his/her Neighbor, and the fact that what he/she does to another, he/she does to Christ.
One Loses Full Control of his/her Actions in the measure that his/her Decisions are dominated-by
Pride and Self-Love, for these
Vices frequently give rise to Resentment and
Anger, preventing one from seeing things in their True-Light, from making
Unbiased-Judgments, from making Wise-Decisions, and from refraining from Words and Actions that offend against
Courtesy and Kindness.
It might be helpful to see how the Passion of Anger affects the Whole Person,
Body and Soul, not only Clouding
the Mind, but bringing about Rapid Physical Changes that
Mobilize the Body's Forces for Aggression. The New Catholic
Encyclopedia describes the Bodily effects of Anger
"As a Passion or Emotion, Anger is Psychosomatic. The visible Physiological changes involved in the
Passion of Anger are Increased Pulse, Trembling, Flushed Face, Knit Eyebrows, Tensed Facial Muscles, Dilated and Flashing Eyes, and
sometimes Impaired Speech. Internal changes are increased output of Adrenaline, thus causing increased Circulation, Heartbeat, and
Blood Pressure - which results in increased Sugar in the Blood and makes Energy available faster to the Brain and Muscles; increased
Respiration and Perspiration, in Skin Temperature, and slowing down of the Stomach, Gall Bladder, Kidney and Liver functions. The
Physiological changes accompanying Anger are proportionate to the greater or lesser Violence of the Angry Reaction"
We have given in detail these Effects of Anger to show how Greatly and how Quickly this
Emotion effects the entire Body as well as
the Powers of the Soul, and how important it is to check the Initial Stirrings of this
Remedies For Anger
One who by Natural Temperament is more prone to Anger must especially be on guard.
Prayer is an Indispensable Means to grow in the Virtue of
Meekness, which controls the Emotion of Anger. Ask
God to see His Providential Hand behind the
Disturbing and Upsetting Circumstances, allowing this Situation,
this Inconvenience, this Humiliation, this
Set-Back, this Disturbance - to
Test our Humility, our
Patience, our Unselfishness, our
Faith and Trust in His Providence.
We Squander many Difficult Situations that could be Sources of
Grace and Growth. We must never lose-sight-of the fact that the
Divine Physician heals as He
Wounds, if we are Submissive to His Healing Hand.
(Hebrews 12:5,6; Revelation 3:19).
Looking at Anger from a purely Natural point-of-view, some would encourage various types of
Physical Exercise, various Physical
discharges-of-energy such as Playing Sports, Rail Splitting, Physical Work-Outs,
etc. which frequently assist in the Dissipation-of pent-up Rage. These might bring some
Temporary Relief, but they do not get at the Causes of Anger. As long as
any trace of Pride and Self-Love
remain in us, we will encounter situations in which Resentment and
Anger cause us to lose some of our Control and Self-Mastery. For as Saint Thomas says:
"Meekness makes a Man Master of himself"
(ibid. 157,4). Without the Interior Control that
Meekness brings of Impulses of Animosity, or
Antipathy, or Indignation, etc. we will never face Calmly the
Trials of Daily Life.
We have made little progress in the Virtue of Meekness, if when
Unexpected Trials, or Contradictions, or
Injuries or Offenses come-along, our
Peace of Heart vanishes. The Meekness of which we speak comes from a
Habitual frame-of-mind that sees the Merciful and Purifying
Hand of God in all the Trials of Life, and from a concern to Calm the
First Feelings of Anger or
Resentment lest they Blind one to God's Purpose.
Gifts of the Spirit
Four (4) Main
Supernatural/ Divine Nature
Received at Baptism
along with Sanctifying Grace
Received at Conception and
developed throughout our Life
No Natural Counterpart exists
to the Infused Three (3)
Fear of the Lord
The Four (4) Main Acquired/Human
Virtues are still severely weakened due to Original Sin, and require
Divine Aid from the Infused Virtues and the Gifts of the Holy
Spirit. It is absolutely impossible to attain Heaven by Natural
means, Supernatural help is necessary.
By our own efforts alone, however, even Aided by Grace and the
Infused Virtues, we will never completely Eradicate all traces of
Pride and Selfish Tendencies. But to those who do what they can,
the Holy Spirit comes with an added Gift,
the Gift of Piety, which Erases the last traces of
Ill-feeling toward others, and Softens the Hardness of
Heart that stands in the way of His Action in the Soul.
True Christian Meekness, then, requires Concern and Effort to Discipline all forms of
Pride and Self-Love that give rise to
Resentment and Anger, to Calm the
First Feelings of Anger
when they arise, and the Indispensable Help of the Infused Virtues and
Gifts - to be sought with Fervent and
Persevering Prayer. The help we ask from the Holy Spirit is expressed in
the Sequence of the Mass for Pentecost: "Come, Holy Spirit,
bend the stubborn Mind, warm the chilled Heart, guide the steps that go astray".
Importance of Meekness
From all that has been said there should be little need to stress the importance of this Virtue.
If our Blessed Lord summarized the whole of the Old Law and the
New Law in the Two (2) Great Commandments of
Charity - Love of God and Neighbor,
Meekness is one of the Main Custodians of Charity. This is because it Controls
Anger which in so many ways causes one to Offend
God and Neighbor. How often do we find People who are
Angry with God because of the Trials
which His Merciful Providence allows for the Good of
their Soul, or because their Prayers seem
not to be heard.
Too, Meekness keeps one from Usurping
God's Rights, Restraining the Inclination to seek
Revenge. "Revenge is Mine, I will Repay, says the Lord"
If one would win others to the acceptance of Goodness and
Truth, of God's view of things, it will not be by Force or by Sheer
Authority which can be Counter-Productive and Arouse Opposition; but rather by Meekness
and Patience along with Prayer after the
example of our Savior Who is "Meek and Humble of Heart".
Meekness is especially important for Progress in
Prayer, for one Agitated with Feelings of Anger and
Resentment cannot sincerely apply himself/herself to Recollection and Conversation with
God, nor be open to the Inspirations of the
Each of the Christian Virtues relies on the Help
of other Virtues for its Perfect Fulfillment. This is true of
Meekness. We have seen how Meekness cannot get along without
Humility which keeps Pride in check, for the Main Source of
Anger is Hurt Pride and Frustrated
Self-Will. Too, Meekness leans heavily on the
Virtue of Fortitude in its Passive Aspect of bearing
Wrongs Patiently. And it needs the Gift of
Piety (refer to large Table above) that brings a Filial Reverence of the
Father in Heaven, and an awareness of
His Permissive Will in all things.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Pray to the Mother of
Jesus who, like her Son, was "Meek
and Humble of Heart". In her Fullness of Grace she was more like
Him than any other, for more than all the Angels
and Saints she shared in His Divine Life. How truly,
at the foot of the Cross, she bore Wrongs
Patiently, offering to the Father her
Son and herself for the same Redemptive
Purpose as Jesus. Obtain for me, Blessed Mother, the
Grace to be more like your Son,
"Meek and Humble of Heart".
Links to other Pages on Virtues
Three (3) Theological Virtues
Four (4) Main Moral Virtues
No Species exist for the
Three (3) Theological Virtues